Employment Minister Eric Abetz has delivered a blunt warning to anyone wanting to use a free-trade deal with China to undercut the wages and conditions of Australian workers.
“If people want to play that game they will have the full force of the Australian law to deal with,” he told ABC radio on Tuesday.
Senator Abetz was responding to trade union and Labor concerns that the FTA will allow Chinese companies to bring in foreign workers for infrastructure projects worth more than $150 million.
There are fears pay and conditions could be eroded as well.
But Senator Abetz said the FTA would deliver “bountiful” job opportunities to Australians, while existing protections for local workers would remain in place.
Temporary visa arrangements would be consistent with existing immigration and employment laws.
Predictions of an influx of Chinese workers were questionable because existing labour market tests would be maintained, Senator Abetz said.
However, ACTU president Ged Kearney said the China deal lowered the threshold for major projects from $2 billion, and weakened safeguards to ensure Australians did miss out on local jobs.
“It’s very difficult not to sound xenophobic in this situation,” she said.
“But we have fears that they have lowered the threshold so low … and this could be a real problem for Australian workers.”